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    Sunday, 30 September 2007

    Toasting Michael Jackson With A NZ IPA

    Today was chosen as the day to toast the passing of Michael Jackson. The chosen time was 9pm EST but as that's the middle of the night here in England, I chose 9pm BST.

    Due to family commitments (my wife is due our second child in four days), I chose to stay at home to toast him. It was a difficult decision which beer to chose. Clearly I don't have unlimited supplies of beer or even access to most beers, so my choice was limited. I could have chosen a Yorkshire brew in deference to where Michael was born, or I could have chosen a beer from Lithuania in memory of his roots. Instead I chose a style of beer he championed, from a country not renowned for its beer.

    I think it's partly down to Michael Jackson that India Pale Ales are so popular with beer geeks now. This style, originally created by British brewers in the 1700s was written about by MJ in his pocket book of 1997 thus: "the hoppiest examples of the style are made by the new generation of American brewers". And it is Michael who played a huge part in the American microbrewery revolution. And out of this revolution, interest grew in other countries.

    So for my toast I chose to drink Emersons 1812 India Pale Ale, an IPA from New Zealand. It is very American in style. A wonderful aroma of piney hops and an excellent bitterness to the taste with notes of lychee.

    I am sure Michael would have been flattered by today's events and would have loved hearing about all the different beers chosen to mark the event. I don't know if he ever drank Emersons 1812 IPA - he probably did - I'm sure he would have liked it.

    Here's to Michael Jackson, and a big thanks for all you did for beer.

    The Rake - I Must Go

    There was a good write up in yesterday's Telegraph about The Rake near Borough Market, London SE1.

    It's nice to be able to recommend an article as well writen and about a subject matter close to all our hearts: a good beer pub

    Sadly The Rake is on my to go list. I really don't get to London often enough, and when I do it's either for the purposes of going to a beer festival or a gathering. With the excellent Utobeer just around the corner and the wonderful food all over Borough Market, I really must get my arse down there soon.

    Friday, 28 September 2007

    M1 Motorway - Junction 20

    Most of us just speed up and down the nation's motorways, not giving a thought to getting off and investigating what lies within a small radius. Junction 20 of the M1 is in Leicestershire. If travelling from the North it is signed "Lutterworth and Rugby" whereas from the South it is signed "Lutterworth and Market Harborough".

    When exiting you can find a gem of a place in either direction.

    The Black Horse at Walcote is about a mile and a half from the motorway in the direction of Market Harborough. The old pub was demolished and a new one built in its place in 2006. From the outside it looks like a newly built house, all red brick and tiled roof. However inside it's unmistakably a pub! There are three separate areas. The bar area has a row of seven or eight tables; a room at the back has comfy sofas, a pool table and a plasma screen, and then there is a conservatory area for diners. There are nine handpumps respledent with their real ales, and a temperature controlled stillage area with room for up to eight further beers or ciders. All the beers I tried were in tip top condition, served by a landlord who is very proud of his beer and proud of the fact that he is currently Leicester CAMRA Pub Of The Month. The food is very good also, and its evening Thai menu is renowned for miles around with Take Away also offered. It is all in all an excellent all round pub.

    Heading six miles or so in the other direction beyond Lutterworth is the village of Ullesthorpe and Bells Brewery and deli. The shop sells an excellent range of British bottled beers and a smaller range of foreign beers. Of particular interest to me is the fact that they are selling the American beers being imported by James Clay. Prices are very reasonable and the beer buying experience can be enhanced by buying fresh veg, olives, cheese and plenty of other typical deli produce. Beer festivals are held from time to time also, with the next one in a couple of week's time.

    So, next time you are heading up or down the M1 give yourself an extra couple of hours and visit these two great beer havens.

    Wednesday, 26 September 2007

    I Don't Think She Meant To Say That

    Foster's Brewery workers in Queensland, Australia are set to take industrial action over the next few days. The strikes are being called as the employers are ignoring the union members' desire to have pay and conditions agreed by the union Instead the brewers are set to impose regulations. I say all power to their elbow.

    And indeed in a classic case of management foot in mouth speak, a spokeswomen has made the classic admission that their beer is pretty crap anyway. She says ""No one's going to miss their VB, or their VB Mid or their Crown or their Crown Gold or their Stirling or their Stella Artois." I think what she means is that production won't be affected, but out of context I think we can all agree that if these beers were wiped off the face of the earth nobody would shed a tear.

    Tuesday, 25 September 2007

    UK's Smallest Pub - Go While You Can

    One of the most amazing pubs I have been in is The Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Ignore the fact that the pub is in the home of Greene King and that it is their beer which is stocked; the pub is an absolute essential visit.

    It claims to be the tiniest pub in the UK measuring just 110 square feet, and on my visit there were about six people in, and it was crowded. The lack of square footage, though, makes for an intimate atmosphere, where everybody is your friend. There are eclectic decorations including a suspended mummified cat which has to be seen to be believed.

    Because of the size of the pub, drinkers often spill out on to the street (there is no garden). This is actually unlawful but the police have overlooked it at this particular establishment due to its size and the fact that the pub is a tourist attraction. However since the smoking ban the police in Bury are having to be more consistent. Smokers have not been allowed to take their alcohol onto the streets outside other pubs so all customers are being stopped doing so at The Nutshell.

    This is going to make a massive difference to the pub and its future is said to be uncertain. I think this is potentially a tragedy. The pub is wonderful and to lose it would be a disgrace. The least Greene King could do with their multi million business is make good any losses suffered at the pub to keep it open. They can certainly afford it!

    If however GK don't do the right thing and you've never been to The Nutshell, then get there quick before it's too late.

    Monday, 24 September 2007

    Don't Try This At Home

    Not a lot happens in Northampton where I live. We have a football team in the English third tier, a county cricket club in the second tier, and a Rugby Union team also in the second tier, in spite of being European Champions just seven years ago. Oh we had a mini tornado this morning, but you're not really interested in any of that nonsense.

    What we do have is a Champion Eater and Drinker, and he retired on Friday giving a final display of his ridiculous talents.

    Peter Dowdeswell lives just down the road in Earls Barton. His Wikipedia entry says he has drank 90 pints of beer in three hours, although the evidence for that is lacking. What we do know though is what he did on Friday at his retirement bash. He drank a pint of beer in one second standing on his head and downed a yard of ale (four and a half pints) in just a little longer.

    Let's just think about that again. A pint of beer in one second upside down. How can he even do that? Doesn't gravity have a part to play in all of this? I would struggle to drink a pint in half a minute the right way up.

    This guy is superhuman. Some would say super stupid, but he's raised loads for charity over the years, and he probably never has to pay for a meal (oh yes he holds scores of fast eating records too), or a drink.

    I hope he has a happy retirement. Anybody out there fancy challenging for his records?

    Sunday, 23 September 2007

    Real Pump Clips - A Real Necessity

    I had a quick half hour in the pub after work on Friday. I was greeted by seven different real ales. Six of these had the proper pump clip, and one had a hand written clip. The typical real ale drinkers at this pub are happy to try new beers, but if they find one they like they might stay on it for the whole session. I, on the other hand, will try anything new.

    I sat near the bar and people-watched. Drinkers came in, and peered along the bank of pumps before ordering what they fancied. Nobody ordered the beer with the hand written clip. I have seen this many times. Customers like to see a proper pump clip. They probably have more confidence in the product; they like to see a professional clip rather than a scruffy hand written scrap of paper stuck over a no longer needed one.

    I am not sure what the reason for not providing the correct accompaniment is. The price of a pump clip is pretty low so there's no excuses for not having them.

    For what it's worth I did try the beer in question. It was nowhere near as nice as the other two I had. I am convinced the reason for its poor condition was that it was a slow mover. Surely a lesson to be learned. I would be interested if you have ever overlooked a beer in a pub because it did not have a clip?

    Saturday, 22 September 2007

    Magners Light - I Can Hardly Wait

    Those wonderful people from Bulmers in Ireland are really spoiling us now. They are about to release a lower calorie version of their over ice cider Magners in the UK. It will be the same 4.5% alcohol by volume, but will have approximately 91 les calories per 330ml bottle. Allegedly it is already selling well in Ireland.

    Regular readers will recall that I didn't think much to the ordinary version and I am quite sure that this 'light' version will be equally poor if not considerably worse.

    We are promised that it will be available in Asda from October 1st. I will probably be setting up a sleeping bag outside the night before in anticipation.

    Actually, thinking about it, isn't there another way of making Magners lower in calories? Just use extra ice!

    Friday, 21 September 2007

    Two New Beers From Badger

    It appears that Badger brewery has let the cat out of the bag with their latest product. Poacher's Choice is described as a liquorice and damson-flavoured 5.7% ABV dark ale and is said to be a winner of the Tesco Drinks Award.

    Interestingly the winners are not supposed to be announced until October 8th, so Tescos may not be pleased that this information is already out there, but hey I like it when Tescos get annoyed.

    This is the second interesting new Badger beer at the moment. Their 4.6% Pumpkin Ale is also new and is brewed with cloves and peat as well as the halloween vegetable. I'm not a huge fan of Badger beers but it's excellent to see them experimenting in this way with different ingredients.

    Pumpkin ales are very popular in the USA; at least 100 have been produced, but to my knowledge this is the first such in the UK. I look forward to trying it, and reviewing it here.

    Wednesday, 19 September 2007

    More On American Beer In Europe

    My guest article on Hop Talk lamented the lack of American beers in the UK. What I find frustrating is that there is plenty of North American beer available in Scandinavia.

    It is often said how expensive beer is in the Scandinavian countries, yet the love for decent beer is immense.

    Just take a look at these articles 'Canada', and 'USA' at Swedish blogger Mattias Willefors' excellent site.

    All of these beers are available this week in Stockholm. I realise this is a festival list so is not representative of the situation all year round, but North American beers which we don't see in the UK are available on a regular basis in Sweden and its neighbours.

    Generally speaking it is the real beer lovers' pubs which specialise in these imports: bars like Akkurat and Oliver Twist in Stockholm, and The Rover in Gothenburg have a great list of US stuff. But the Systembolaget, which is the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly also has a great selection. The current availability is: Anchor Bock Beer, Anchor Christmas Ale, Anchor Steam Beer, Anchor Summer Beer, Left Hand Black Jack Porter, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Brown Ale, Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Local 1, Anchor Liberty Ale, Miller, Miller Lite, North Coast Old Stock Ale, North Coast Red Seal Ale, Samuel Adams Black Lager, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Samuel Adams Summer Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Ale, Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Left Hand Sawtooth Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

    I certainly wouldn't complain if I could buy those beers at my local off licence.

    Sunday, 16 September 2007

    Your Beer Set To Cost More

    The terrible weather we have experienced this year has bought many ramifications for anyone interested in beer or other related drinks. Apparently the sales of bottled ciders like Magners have fallen dramatically as punters are not interested in a glass of ice with something vaguely resembling cider poured on top if the sun isn't beating down. I would imagine there have been similar sales drops for draught and bottled lagers.

    However on a much more serious note, a report in one of the Sunday rags states that beer prices are set to increase on the back of the bad weather. Crops of malting barley has been seriously affected, and tons of it have had to be destroyed. The result of this is that barley has doubled in price in just twelve months. Thankfully our beer is not set to follow suit exactly, but it is predicted to go up by 20p a pint. It's disappointing, but it won't stop me drinking!!

    Saturday, 15 September 2007

    The Briar Rose - Birmingham

    So after my bad experience, I traipsed to The Briar Rose. This is a JDWetherspoon pub, so in many ways I had preconceived ideas as to what I would experience.

    However things are slightly different here. It is a Wetherlodge, so is slightly plusher than most JDWs in that it wants to be more inviting for its residents. It is also proud of its entry in the Good Beer Guide and is making a concerted effort to promote real ale.

    Behind the bar there is a screen, much like The Wellington, advertizing the real ales available, but the screen rotates to another image proudly stating: "We sold 1567 pints of real ale last week, thanks for voting us into the 2008 Good Beer Guide". Two things strike me here. Firstly 1567 pints doesn't actually sound that much, and secondly, it is nice that they are grateful for their entry in the GBG, and hopefully will make the most of it, by advocating real ale. Certainly being just down the hill from The Welly should work in their favour.

    As well as the regular beers they had Greene King Swing Low, Titanic White Star, and four beers from Cornish brewer Sharps on offer. Coming soon we are promised over a dozen more Titanic beers.

    I had two Sharps beers and the GK World Cup Rugby special. I would have to say that the beers were fine, but not outstanding. This may be that they are not particularly good beers anyway, rather than the pubs fault, but it was disappointing.

    My major criticism is that the flyer on my table advertized three third pints for the price of a pint. I requested this offer, but they had not yet had the delivery of the third pint glasses. I really like the idea, but for heavens sake, do not promote it before you can deliver guys

    I am not generally a fan of Wetherspoon pubs. There are one or two excellent branches (The Babington in Derby springs to mind), and a few that are shockingly bad. The Briar Rose is definitely above average, and I wouldn't hesitate to look in in future to see what's on the pumps.

    Utopia - Birmingham

    Whilst sat in The Wellington I perused my Good Beer Guide and noticed a pub which I believe has never been in the guide before, and lo and behold, it was within a couple of minutes walk.

    The guide states that Utopia sells Hooky Bitter, Taylor Landlord and a local guest beer. OK thought I, that's good enough for me, and it's a new pub for me to boot. Like The Wellington the pub can easily be missed from the outside. I say "pub", but actually this is better described as a bar. It's all chrome and light furnishings, and doesn't look like a real ale drinkers haunt at all. I noticed immediately that the promised guest beer was missing in action, so I ordered a half of Hooky Bitter instead. This is a classic light English bitter at 3.4%, so I was more than a little taken aback to be charged £1.45. Holding the glass, I was put in mind of wearing a glove. The glass was very warm, presumably being recently removed from the glass washer. I sat down in a light beige coloured leather sofa - it farted like a Reggie Perrin joke - but at least was comfy.

    The beer was poor. There was a medicinal taste, none of the light citrus hops and balancing malt I know this beer should deliver. I'm not one to complain in person, and I'm not sure the staff would know what beer should taste like anyway. I drank it pretty quickly and left, never to return.

    I fail to have any comprehension why this place is in the Good Beer Guide. I'm all for a bit of diversity. I don't just want good honest boozers. If smarter upmarket pubs serve good beer then they deserve a place, but this pub was just corny inside, the prices were a disgrace and the beer quality was shocking. I smell a rat.

    Save yourself the short walk, stay in The Welly for a little longer.

    Friday, 14 September 2007

    The Wellington - Birmingham

    The second stop on my mini Birmingham crawl was The Wellington on Bennetts Hill. It may be easy to miss from the outside as it doesn't resemble your average pub, but once visited you will return. Without a doubt The 'Welly' is one of the most revered real ale pubs in the UK. The pub opened in its present guise in late 2004 and has won Birmingham CAMRA's pub of the year in 2005, and 2006.

    It has a vast turnover of real ales. There are presently 15 handpumps devoted to ales and three to ciders and perries. It is not uncommon for a beer to be replaced as soon as a barrel runs out, so in a two hour stay there may actually be nearer twenty different beers. It is doubtful that any British pub gets through as many different beers as The Welly: In 2005 they sold 2610 different beers; in 2006, 2332 and as of my visit this week there have been 1910 in 2007.

    Ordering beer is easy thanks to their beer board which is updated in real time both in the pub and on the net. The board gives colour indication for those who care, as well as price, and customers are requested to order by pump number. The Welly's policy is not to serve food, but all customers are very welcome to bring their own, be it hot or cold, with crockery, cutlery and condiments provided. This is a wonderful idea and really should be replicated by other pubs who not provide kitchen facilities. Throw in the fact that the entrances to both toilets are probably the narrowest in the known Universe, and The Welly clearly becomes an essential visit for all lovers of beer and interesting hostelries.

    It may seem churlish to make complaints about such a place, but nowhere is perfect. My personal opinion is that in the pub's chase to get through so many different beers they do sell too many short range or one off beers. This is excellent for the scoopers but I would prefer to see the stock range of brewers' production more often. Having said that I do realise that the regular customer base keeps returning (as do I whenever in Birmingham) so obviously they are fulfilling expectations.

    Whatever you do, do not miss The Welly when in Birmingham, and even if within a fifty mile radius, take a detour, you will not regret it.

    Thursday, 13 September 2007

    The Old Joint Stock - Birmingham

    So the first pub on my mini Birmingham crawl was The Old Joint Stock.

    This is Fuller's most Northerly pub, and is overlooked by Birmingham's beautiful cathedral. It is ironic that I chose to visit this pub only a day or two after Stonch's article which highlighted a London Fullers pub which had a ban on jeans and trainers. So suitably attired in my jeans and trainers I entered the pub bravely. Certainly there were a lot of suits, but I wasn't the only one in denim.

    The Old Joint Stock is a former stock exchange building and is an architectural splendour. There is a beautiful high domed ceiling above the island bar resplendent in its dark wood. All the furnitures and fittings seemed quite classy. The pub even has its own 80 seat theatre upstairs.

    The full Fullers' beer range is available, although not any of the beers badged as Gales, and there is one changing guest beer from Beowulf. My half of Beowulf Chasewater was a rather expensive £1.40 showing perhaps that we are paying for the splendour of the building. It was nice enough but too cold. I have previously drank Fullers' beers here and have always thought those beers too cold also. As well as the cask beers the full Fullers range (including London Porter) is available, although they are all fridged so again probably not served at the optimum temperature.

    I am not sure the pub is worthy of its perennial appearance in the Good Beer Guide. It's certainly a nice pub but the beer quality and range are not particulalrly exciting. I do wonder whether it's the novelty of a Fullers pub that gets it in, but that shouldn't be enough.

    I think my favouirte bit of the whole pub is the advert on the wall of the gents for the Child Support Agency warning us that money might be taken out of our wages if we don't pay maintenance. I'm not sure what type of men normally pee in this pub, if that's the type of lavatory reading matter!

    Wednesday, 12 September 2007

    England's Second City

    I had a meeting today in Birmingham which finished earlier than expected. So, armed with my new Good Beer Guide, I visited four pubs all within a short walk of each other.

    The four pubs I visited were:

    The Old Joint Stock

    The Wellington


    The Briar Rose

    I was going to write one article about my mini pub crawl, but the pubs are all so astonishingly different to each other, and in the context of being in the Good Beer Guide, I feel each warrants a small article. We have what is considered by some to be the premier real ale pub in the country; Birmingham's only Fullers Pub; a JDWetherspoons establishment, and what is probably the least worthy entry in the GBG I have ever encountered. Hopefully the next four pieces should be entertaining and food for thought. Please pop back.

    Tuesday, 11 September 2007

    Mine's A Pint Please.

    The EU has made the sensible decision to allow the pint measurement to be kept in the UK.

    There have been constant rumours for some years that we would have to sell our beer by metric measurements, so instead of the usual "pint of mild please", we may have found oursleves saying "500ml of mild please". It just doesn't have the same ring to it does it?

    I'm not against Europe at all. In fact I would prefer us to change from the pound to the euro, but doing away with the pint just wouldn't have been a good move. I am sure that your beer which currently costs £2.25 for a pint would still cost £2.25 with 68 less ml. That's the way these things go.

    Sunday, 9 September 2007

    Hands Up Who's Heard Of Taylor Landlord.

    Timothy Taylor Landlord has won Champion Beer Of Britain four times. It was voted the best beer in Britain in 1982, 1983, 1994 and 1999. It is allegedly Madonna's favourite tipple, and is commonplace in pubs up and down the country. Yet according to The Swindon Advertiser, it's an "unusual brew".

    It looks like the beer festival held at Arkell's Brewery was a fun event but I fear for the beer list if that's one of the strangest beers.

    I don't of course blame the brewery, I think this is an example of local journalists not having a clue about that which they write. I guess that makes a change from my criticising the national press.

    Saturday, 8 September 2007

    Book Review - Good Beer Guide 2008

    I was rather suprised to find my copy of the 2008 Good Beer Guide on my doorstep yesterday. This is the 35th edition of the book and as a CAMRA member who has signed up to a special direct debit scheme, I receive it cheaper and earlier than it is available in the shops, but I didn't realise it was due just yet.

    As I am sure most of you know the GBG lists the best real ale pubs in Britain as chosen by local CAMRA branches. It also lists every brewery in operation at the time of going to print - together with a list of most of their beers - and also gives details of pub groups, and CAMRA beer festivals.

    At the front of each year's edition there are articles written by beer journalists. This year we have articles on the smoking ban, beer with food, green brewing, short measures, and others. The article which interested me the most was regarding the ten pubs which have been in all 35 editions of the guide. These are:

    The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwall
    The Buckingham Arms, London SW1
    The Cherry Tree, Tintern, Wales
    New Inn, Kilmington, Devon
    Queen's Head, Newton, Cambs
    Roscoe Head, Liverpool
    Sow & Pigs, Toddington, Beds
    Square & Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset
    Star Inn, Netherton, Northumberland
    Star Tavern, London SW1

    Hats off to these pubs!

    As with all pub guides peaople will complain that such and such a pub should be in, or such and such a pub shouldn't. There is no way everybody can be totally pleased, but I reckon the GBG does a pretty good job.

    The two pubs in my home county that have made immeasurable improvements on the real ale front this year are both included. These are The Wig & Pen, Northampton and The Coach & Horses, Wellingborough. The inclusion of these pubs is well merited and is proof that the guide is as up to date as can be.

    If I do have a criticism of the book, it is that important information is hidden away amongst the pubs, For example on page 199 there are obituaries to George Bateman, Bill Witty and Claude Arkell, and on page 47 there is a description of real ale. Both of these need more prominence in the book and should be at the front with the other articles. Having said that though, these are small complaints, and I wouldn't be without my copy each year. There is no better pub guide in this country or probably the World.

    Friday, 7 September 2007

    The Session 7 - Brew Zoo - Beware Of The Frog

    For this month's edition of The Session, I put some cockroaches in a glass of some nasty BMC lager. It was a vast improvement! It certainly had a much nicer body.

    Actually, that was a lie.

    There are hundreds of beers with animal names, but I felt it would be nice to choose one most people would not know. In spite of my ranidaphobia, I thought I would drink a beer from my local brewery Frog Island. This brewery was set up in 1994 in Northampton, and is so called because the area is prone to flooding and was given that nickname by railway workers. They produce quite a small range of cask ales by British standards, clearly preferring to concentrate on a core range rather than experimenting every month with different recipes. They also bottle (and bottle condition) three beers which they will personalise if the customer requests, but essentially there is just Natterjack, Fire Bellied Toad and Croak And Stagger.

    To celebrate Brew Zoo I drank the amusingly named Croak And Stagger. This is a 5.6% dark beer best described by the brewers themselves: "Croak & Stagger is a 5.6% dark, full flavoured beer. This recipe for this chestnut-coloured brew includes American Cascade hops which contribute a sweet and spicy note to the aroma. The use of English Marris Otter pale malt, crystal malt, wheat malt and chocolate malt gives a flavour that is initially roasted and slightly bitter and develops to give a slight hint of dried vine fruits. The flavour of the Cascade hops and bitterness produced by the addition of English Target hops combine to produce an astringent aftertaste.. I certainly wouldn't disagree with those comments. For me the dark fruits stand out. There are lovely raisin notes, some bready malts and a nice alcohol content which for me makes for a great Winter Beer, but hey, why not drink it in September. I have provided bottles of this for RateBeerians in USA, Norway and Netherlands, and on the whole it has been very much enjoyed. I have to say I do prefer it cask conditioned, but I would say that about most British beers.

    I do have a personal interest in the brewery. I used to work with one of the partner's wife, and one of my mates designed the company logo. I would heartily recommend the beer to anybody who may come across it.

    Thursday, 6 September 2007

    I've Gone Freelance!

    I was very pleased to be asked to do a guest spot on renowned American blog Hop Talk. It has been published today and is about American beer in the UK. Please go read the article and also enjoy guest pieces from other UK bloggers Boak and Bailey and The Beer Nut.

    Links to their own fine blogs can be found in the links section on the left hand side of this page.

    There is a vast number of beer blogs around at the moment which I enjoy reading greatly, and am grateful that I have been welcomed into the "community" in this way.

    Tuesday, 4 September 2007

    Excuse My Anger!

    My article yesterday was the third one I've written in the short time I've been writing this blog that has highlighted ridiculous articles in the British press. The others are here and here.

    Judging by the comments I have received, people do on the whole agree with the fact that these articles are unhelpful to the furtherance of beer, but perhaps do not share my passion(or should I say anger) when it comes to slagging off the British press.

    Am I right to be this mad? Let's look at wine. Wine is a beverage which is not made in great quantities on these shores, yet is taken very seriously. I cannot recall ever reading such badly informed articles on wine. The same applies to whisk(e)y which is of course British. Why is this? Is it because wine and whisky are seen as the drinks of the middle and upper classes whereas beer is apparently consumed by working class folk in working class boozers whilst wearing their hob nail boots and overalls? Or even worse, is it felt beer drinkers cannot read and thus won't notice these nauseous mistakes?

    Beer is a drink that Britain should be proud of. We have a thriving brewing industry which employs thousands of people. We have a seriously growing microbrewery scene. We have also produced the World's best ever beer journalist (RIP MJ), but these articles are written by heathens who clearly know nothing and care even less.

    Perhaps I shouldn't allow my blood pressure to rise even higher than it is by getting angry about these things. Maybe I should chill out and have a beer (maybe you should buy me a beer!!). I can't help it. Incompetence is something I find it hard to tolerate, and on a subject which our British press should relish championing they are doing shockingly.

    Monday, 3 September 2007

    Don't Drink Beer At Nigella's House

    As much as I like the look of her cooking Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson really needs to learn a thing or two about beer. Writing in today's Times she says: "My Monin syrups are beginning to look like a multicoloured army advancing across my kitchen; favourites to splosh into the sparkling wine are Rosé, Watermelon, Pomegranate and Passionfruit. I bring out a different range for Christmas parties (Cranberry, Winter Berry, Toffee Nut and Gingerbread) and I love these in beer, too. Speaking of which, if you’re serving beer as well at your party, which I think you should if it’s summer or if dancing is involved, make sure it’s so cold that it hurts."

    Nothing good could ever come out of putting watermelon or toffee nut syrups into your beer. And don't get me started on beer being so cold it hurts - that can't be right.

    Sunday, 2 September 2007

    Beer Of The Month - August 2007

    August was completely dominated as far as beer drinking goes by The London RateBeer get together, GBBF and Peterborough Beer Festival. I tried 145 new beers in total from 17 different countries.

    You will hopefully already have read my reports of these three main events. The gathering and GBBF saw some world beating beers, and a small amount of average or poor ones. It seemed a feature of the gathering for there to be strong beers. I like strong beers but I think these were overdone a little. One of the best beers though, and the stand out beer for some present was the 4.9% Harveys Black Bull Stout. This is an excellent beer brewed to a 170 year old recipe. It was a delicious wonderfully balanced English stout, and wins my English Beer Of The Month. Other great beers on the day were Achel Extra Bruin, the strongest product of Belgium's youngest trappist brewery; Tyranena Stickin It To The Man, an American IPA; Ølfabrikken Clansman, my first beer from this Danish happening micro; Pike XXXXX Stout from Washington; Mikkeller Monks Elixir a Quad from Denmark; De Molen Rasputin, possibly the best beer ever from Netherlands; Grand Teton Black Cauldron Imperial Stout, from Idaho; Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza a Belgian styled beer from Michigan; 3 Fonteinen J & J Oude Geuze Blauw a beautiful Gueuze, sadly no longer produced; Three Floyds Fantabulous Resplendence, a 10.5% strong ale from Indiana; and, my beer of the day, Amager Hr. Frederiksen, an Imperial Stout from Denmark. Hr. Frederiksen wins my New Brewery Beer Of The Month. It was a real pleasure to be able to taste all these brilliant beers in the company of so many great people.

    Of course GBBF had many great beers too such as Ølfabrikken Porter and Nils Oscar Imperial Stout both from Scandinavia. The latter is a stunning beer. It has unbelievable depth of flavour, yet is wonderfully smooth, and all at only 6.5%. It wins my Bottled Beer, Non-English Beer, and Overall Beer Of The Month.

    One of the most exciting things about GBBF is the opportunity to try cask conditioned US beers, and I had a few! The stand outs wereThe Cambridge House Abijah Rowe IPA, Gardner Naked Stout and Facelift IPA, Portsmouth Bottle Rocket IPA and Three Floyds Romulus. Out of these I would have to award Gardner Naked Stout the Cask Beer Of The Month.

    I don't have a separate category for British cask ale of the month, but advise you to keep an eye out for Goachers Crown Imperial Stout and Leeds Midnight Bell

    I expect September to be a lot quieter, but that doesn't mean I won't find some superb beers.